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Planet Mardu, the Vrail System
A cautious glance around her showed Erin she’d picked the right establishment. Raucous music and drunken carousing made it nearly impossible to hear anything anyone said. The illegal haze of popper smoke sat over the din like a blanket of obscurity, and the intentional darkness in the gaming bar more than told her the law was just as welcome, as say, someone like her. Not at all.
Furtively keeping to the deepest shadows in the place, she kept her eyes open for the one person she’d been guaranteed could help her. The prisoners on Eyra had assured her that for the right price, Cheltam would do anything. And if it meant crossing System law, so much the better.
Studying the slop of a watering hole, she had less and less confidence in the infamous Cheltam. Unwashed, hard looking men and women dotted the area. Shockingly, couples engaged in sex wherever and whenever they pleased, while others placed bets on anything from vid-displayed threll races to which woman over the bar would orgasm first. Not the best place to find herself a saviour. But with no other option, Erin would do what she had to in order to survive. A large body bumped her, and as she turned to apologise, the sight that met her stunned her into silence.
A large male shoved his trousers to his knees. He stood between the naked thighs of a heavily made-up female, one currently moaning and groaning as the male latched onto one of her bared breasts with a slick, open mouth. Slurping and sucking noises grew, grunts and straining flesh pressed at each other in odd places, and to her surprise, Erin felt heat rush to her face. What? I’m surprised? Embarrassed? Another thought occurred to her. I’m sexually aroused?
Curious, as she’d never before felt the sensation, she watched the couple slam up against the wall, oblivious to their audience. The male pressed into the female, and without further pause gave in to her demands. He lifted her against the wall, wrapped her legs around his waist, then... Erin and several others shifted to get a better look. The male gripped something between his legs, probably his penis, and shoved inside the female with a long, drawn out groan.
They moved against one another, and the male began pumping his hips. The joining ended rather quickly, with the male’s sudden stillness, a groan, and the female’s cries for more. Much like an animal coupling, Erin thought, no longer intrigued by the act itself. The pleasure the male appeared to have received, however, made her curious. In all her studies, she’d never quite exhausted human reproduction. Oh, she had the basics from books and such, and her sister was a font of information, but a live demonstration had been deliberately avoided. Even her schooling on the subject had been brief. Why had Canunn left off that part of her education? And why had Synster been so adamant to instruct her in the act? Was this male’s pleasure the reason her Handler constantly looked at her so oddly?
And why am I wasting time on this crap when I have more important things to do? Like keep my damned neck out of a peacemaker’s collar? Disgusted with her rampant curiosity, which, if she weren’t careful, would be the death of her, Erin bypassed the ragged couple and sought the tall, scarred man she’d been told would lead her to Cheltam.
Trying to make herself appear much smaller, she hunched her shoulders, tucked into her stolen black netter’s jacket, and carefully stepped through the bar, trying hard not to invite undue attention. In addition to the darkness and smoke, the long collar and drape of her jacket sufficiently covered the parts of her not encased by long trousers and a thin sleeveless shirt. Boots and gloves hid her extremities. And the dark glasses on her face hid the unusual, mismatched hues of her eyes. One glimpse at her unique colouring and System law would be all over this place. The sinful denizens around her would have to be insane to pass up the exorbitant reward Blue Rim Labs offered for information on one of their ‘scientists gone rogue’. An out and out obvious lie, but they knew she’d never tell anyone the truth...not if she wanted to live.
She grimaced at thoughts of the prison she’d recently escaped. Four hellish years, almost her entire life, spent surrounded by drab green walls and Eyran scientists. Everything had a reason. Everything, down to the last detail, was planned. Tests, tests, and more tests. Pain and numbness, followed by experiments that even now made her shudder in remembrance. And Canunn thought she would come crawling back ‘home’ if given enough time in the real world?
Erin huffed and moved faster through the bar. With her brother and sister now taken care of, she had no other thought than vengeance on her mind. Too bad the law couldn’t be trusted worth a damn. She glanced back over her shoulder and narrowed her gaze, calling on her second sight. In seconds the haze in the room cleared, and she plainly saw a pair of peacemakers—the ones she thought might have been following her earlier—talking to one of the huge thugs working as bar security. The guard, a Ragga, one of the System’s strongest inhabitants, would be invaluable in a place like this. Very few could defeat a Ragga, and though Erin’s own manufactured strength had been tested, she wasn’t sure she wanted to find out if the practical application of what she’d been taught would hold.
Quickening her pace, she all but ran into the man she’d been looking for.
“Sorry.” She coughed and deliberately lowered the pitch of her voice, fixated on the distinctive scar marring his left cheek. “You Drekk?”
“Maybe.” The man wasn’t thick enough about the torso and arms to be Ragga, but he had height and strength of presence. Something told her he could hold his own in a fight, and as she instinctively sized up a potential enemy, her body automatically readied to protect itself. It was with some effort that she maintained calm and held back her pheromones in the face of this dangerous male. Drekk’s eyes were gunmetal grey and flat, the scar on his cheek pinching the corner of his mouth into an unhappy grimace. “Your contact?”
Drekk stared at her a moment. Then he nodded, and she released the breath she hadn’t been aware she’d been holding. He motioned for her to follow him, and they left out of a side door she hadn’t seen when she’d previously scouted the bar. Drekk opened the door of a nondescript rover, and she hesitated before getting in. Her instincts were screaming at her not to enter the vehicle, where her defensive manoeuvres would be limited by the constrained space.
“You come with me, or you don’t see him.” He waited.
If she’d had anyone else she could turn to she would have. But she’d only been on the outside for four measly months, and two of them had been spent healing and evading the law. It had taken her a month to track down Cheltam, and as long to find a ship to stow away in to Mardu. She’d made it this far. A little courage would get her where she wanted to be soon enough.